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Episode summary:

In this episode, Susan talks about how our children learn by watching how we deal with challenges. She shares a story from travels in Africa with her then teenage son when plans fell apart, and offers reminders about the value of including our children as we prepare to vote in the U.S. election.


Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.
https://susanstiffelman.com/

Things you'll learn from this episode:

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The value of keeping the big picture in mind when we face difficulties
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How challenges can cultivate flexibility

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Specific ideas on engaging our children in democracy

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I'm Susan Stiffelman. I'm your host, the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. I'm also a marriage, family and child therapist, a teacher long time parent, coach, and educator. And I'm very glad that you're here. This podcast is really about helping you raise confident, caring, compassionate children with more joy and fewer power struggles. And it's really been my pleasure to be able to share some of the things I've learned over the 40 plus years. I've been doing this work with families, thousands of families around the world as a teacher, a counselor, therapist, and educator. And of course, as a mom, before we get started, please make sure that you go to susanstiffelman.com, sign up for all the updates because we have regular messages of news and inspiration. And then there's some great programs coming up, including the first time I've ever done this, a class on teaching right brain kids the times tables, it takes an hour and they know them.


Speaker 1:

And then I'm going to do a master class with my dear friend and colleague Maggie Dent on raising boys. So be sure to go to susanstiffelman.com to sign up and stay in touch. Here's what I want to talk about today. I've really been reflecting on how the small sometimes seemingly insignificant choices that we make end up shaping who our kids become. So these days I see my son with a big stack of books next to his bed, or we have long conversation about the things he's reading or the interest he's pursuing. And it really drives home. One of my core beliefs about raising children, that the things we prioritize in, the ways that they see us handling challenges and embracing opportunities, helps them become more of who they're meant to be, helps them become more flexible, more adaptable, and more engaged. And it really means that we have at least some kind of impact on the adult version of themselves that they're headed toward.


Speaker 1:

So I want to share a personal example. When my son was turning 15, I rented out our house for two and a half months. And I took him to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. I really wanted to get him out of the little bubble that I was raising him. And even though we had good friends and solid people, and it was a grounded life and he had chores and all those things, I realized that to really see his place in the world as a citizen of the world, we would need to leave. And fortunately, we had a way to do that. I know very few people can, can make that happen, but we started out in Uganda, which was just, I can't even describe it because we got to visit a facility associated with dr. Jane Goodall's work with orphan chimpanzees. Absolutely incredible. And then we made our way to Tanzania starting out at the compound of two extraordinary Pete and Charlotte O'neill. Pete and Charlotte are the co founders of the United African Alliance community center.UAACC, and it focuses on healing the community. They provide a lot of free art music, film, and classes to members of the nearby surrounding area. And we were able to engage and we taught English. We gardened and we sat in SP taught young people to become DJs in his onsite radio station. It was absolutely amazing. And we had lots of other adventures in Tanzania, and then it was time to move on to Australia. So we left early in the morning to get our flight to the airport in Nairobi, ready for the next leg of our journey. I don't know it was going to be something like a 47 hour flight with layovers and Dubai and Singapore. If I remember right by the time the plane was boarding in Nairobi, it was like two in the morning. We'd been up, you know, well over 15, 16 hours. And we were really tired. We had everything in order, all the paperwork and so forth. But when we got to the gate, we were told that we couldn't board because we didn't have visas. Well, we did have visas. Australia had issued electronic visas, but somehow the paperwork hadn't made it in the right way to the airline in Nairobi.


Speaker 1:

My son looked at me, he was so worn out and I could feel myself starting to worry about what might be ahead missing the flight, having to find a new place to stay in the town. We didn't know, figuring out a new flight after whatever was needed to get those electronic visas to the authorities in Nairobi. But I also realized that this was in capital letters. One of those moments, you know what I mean, where you know, that you could make a strong impression and I knew I could freak out or I could try and stay calm and to see that these people were trying to just do their job. So in the end, I was able to talk with a pilot who helped the gate staff organize access to the electronic records with our visas. And we boarded at the last minute, it was touch and go for a while there.


Speaker 1:

But in a way, I was kind of glad that my son got to see that even when life takes an unexpected turn, we can show up with flexibility and find our way. Trust me, I am not always cool and calm, but in that moment, somehow I was able to keep the big picture in mind and see it as a learning opportunity for both of us. So this trip, this two and a half month experience, all the adventures that we had, it was really wonderful. And there were tons of challenges. I think one of the biggest takeaways, which had been one of my goals for taking him on this trip was to help him see his place in the world as that global citizen, to see the bigger view of life and it's many and very diverse inhabitants, just that we're all the same. We're all just trying to get, you know, one foot in front of the other.


Speaker 1:

And in it, I think it really did affect who he became. And, and it was certainly an amazing experience to share with my teenage son. This time right now, during COVID is another time like that, where many of us are overwhelmed and afraid, worried as we're trying to juggle our work obligations with overseeing our kids, distance learning, and I get it, it's hard, but if we can let go of having things be organized and neat and tidy, and to show up every day with a decent attitude in a heavy dose of humor, I have every confidence that will come through this stronger as well, and that it will help our children become more adaptable and flexible. So there's yet another opportunity for those of us in the United States. And this is really important. We have this chance right now, not to teach, but to show our kids how to meet life's difficulties and how to engage in making the world a better place.


Speaker 1:

And that is by voting. These are difficult times in our country to say the least. The atmosphere in the United States is charged with fear and divisiveness. Many feel that we're just living in a climate of, of tremendous frustration and anger. And what I believe is that it's all well and good to talk with our children about racial injustice or climate change. But if we want them to grow into engaged, compassionate, global citizen, they need to see us taking part in the democratic process. And we have that opportunity right now by voting and even better, including our kids in the process. So here's, today's suggestion. If you have already voted great, yay. Sit down with your children, even the little ones and tell them why you voted as you did. And then if you haven't voted yet, please, please put it at the top of your list.


Speaker 1:

I know most people will be voting by mail, but however you submit your ballot include your children in the process. I used to take my son every time I voted, I would take him into the little polling booth with me, you know, and just make sure that he saw, this is what we do, that we use our voice. We use our vote, even if, sometimes it feels it doesn't counter it, doesn't change things. Cumulatively. We have to look at the bigger picture and it does. So with your children, go through the various candidates and explain why you're making the choices that you're making read through the various initiatives, the pros and the cons and show your kids what it looks like to become informed about the choices that you're making, including them in the discussion. I believe that we have an opportunity in this country to move toward healing and inclusiveness, and that all of you, you parents, you have this amazing chance to raise a population of engaged, informed, compassionate leaders.


Speaker 1:

Even when it seems like what you're doing is wiping runny noses or mediating fights over Legos. So this is the power of being a parent that it's in the challenging moments, whether it's for me and that airport in Nairobi, or it's, you know, overseeing your child's math lesson when they want to hide under the table, or it's participating in democracy, even when parts of you feel it may not make the difference that you hope it would. These are the things we want our children to see. So I encourage you this week to think about how they're watching you show up in the world, whether it's, how you're educating yourself on the issues as you prepare to vote, or how you find your way through challenges of working from home while supervising their learning without completely falling apart. And I know that's sometimes really hard, but it's very easy to fall apart when you just feel safe that you're sinking with, with stress and demands and so forth.


Speaker 1:

So the difficult times really though, are the ones rich with possibilities, for growth and transformation, ours, and in turn our children's. So I hope some of that resonates with you as always, if you want to stay in touch with these ideas, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter at susanstiffelman.com. You can also check out the program we just did on homeschooling or distance learning without power struggles, as well as a three part series on helping siblings get along. That I co-taught with the wonderful Dr. Laura Markham, all of that is at susanstiffelman.com under products. As always, if you're enjoying these episodes, it would be fantastic for you would leave a quick rating or review. I'd really appreciate that. Tell a friend. So taking a moment, gathering yourself, getting quiet, connecting to your being in this beautiful, crazy world. We're all in this together. And hopefully these podcast episodes and all the things that you receive from me through the newsletter are little touchdowns, little reminders to stay the course, to have faith, to ask for help. So I look forward to joining you on our next episode. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. I'll see you next time.




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